Are You Suffering Because You're Not Getting Enough Sleep?
I’ve always had trouble falling asleep. I know I have a lousy nighttime routine that usually leads to me not getting enough sleep (4 or 5 hours is my average), but thus far in my life, I haven’t been able to muster up the gumption to want to break my bad habits.
Yet, living exhausted is no way to live. It’s time I delve into the real reasons I don’t change so I can actually take the steps required to get better sleep and live my life with more energy and enthusiasm.
The truth, though I hate to admit it, is that my sleep issues have a lot to do with my overall attitude about my life.
This is embarrassing to reveal, but I don’t think I’m alone in this: You see, I don’t always look forward to starting the next day. There are exceptions … for instance, on a night before flying to Maui, I’m pretty darned excited for the next day, but that’s the exception. Most days, I’m not flying to Maui.
I thoroughly enjoy my evenings and want to make them last as long as possible. Each morning comes with its whole new set of problems and stresses, and as long as I’m tucked into a comfy bed, I don’t have to face those issues. I stay awake in my little nighttime oasis, because if I fall asleep, I’ll have to get up and go be an adult again … a process I find exhausting.
So, it turns out, I don’t have a “falling asleep” issue; I have an attitude issue. It’s an attitude issue that is costing me big-time. In fact, I’ve done some research on the subject and it turns out that my bedtime habits are costing me far more dearly than I ever really understood.
10 Dire Consequences of Adopting Lousy Bedtime Routines that Rob You of Precious Sleep
There are a lot of reasons to get a full 7-9 hours of sleep at night, mostly because of what happens when you DON’T get a full night’s sleep. Here are ten consequences of inadequate sleep:
1 If you don’t get enough rest, you’re tired and cranky the next day. You’re not the only one that suffers; your tiredness and crankiness affects all those around you, too. It’s not a good way to win friends and endear yourselves to others.
2 A proper amount of sleep is required to maintain a healthy weight. Yup, lack of sleep is contributing to making me fat. Ugh.
3 Sleep deprivation diminishes your ability to be sharp and coherent. Your brain simply doesn’t function at max capacity. Sleepy heads aren’t likely to bring their A-game to any project or effort they pursue.
4 Lack of sleep wears down your immune system. So, get ready to experience more sickness. Yuck.
5 Science reveals that if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to become depressed. In fact, one study showed you’re 10 times more likely to become depressed. Isn’t that a depressing thought?
6 If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re a hazard behind the wheel. Your reflexes aren’t sharp and your mind isn’t plugged into awareness mode, and that means you’re more likely to cause a wreck.
7 Your judgement goes out the window. Think about the many ways poor judgement could manifest in your life. You’re more likely to get in a fight with a loved one for saying something you know you shouldn’t say. And, you’re more likely to make crappy decisions that you end up regretting … for instance, saying the WRONG thing to the boss. Your sleep-rested self wouldn’t make these kinds of mistakes.
8 Medical experts say you put your heart at risk and increase your cancer risk when you don’t get sufficient rest. If that’s not bad enough, you also increase your risk of diabetes. OMG. I had no idea!
9 You become more forgetful. But you won’t remember that.
10 When you don’t get enough much-needed sleep, you’ll end up looking tired and haggard and older than you really are. That’s because your skin suffers when you don’t get enough sleep. You’ll have more wrinkles, fine lines and looser skin. Beauty rest is a real thing.
Dang, I’m not just tired and cranky when I don’t get enough sleep, I’m fatter, depressed, accident-prone, forgetful, dull-minded, much older looking, and at risk of developing serious diseases. When you put it that way, it makes sense to rethink the whole bedtime routine thing.
Sleep Matters, and If You’re Not Getting Enough, It’s Time to Change Your Nighttime Habits
Okay, after reading through that list, I’ll concede that going forward I want to get enough sleep. I know my life will be far better and happier if I start harvesting the many benefits of good sleep habits (namely, avoiding those 10 monster consequences of inadequate sleep that I just mentioned).
I hear a lot about people droning on about wanting more sleep, but not a lot about how they’re willing to change in order to get more sleep. That’s been me; yes, I’ve been too tired and I know it. Yet, I wasn’t willing to change my attitude or my routine.
From a very young age (think young teen years), I didn’t want the next day to start. Who’d want to wake up and go to school when they can stay nestled in a soft bed with feather pillows and a homemade quilt that Grandma Wood sewed with her two loving hands? No one would!
So, being a clever girl, I decided I could hold back time and keep the next day from coming. I did this by not going to sleep when I should.
Yes, you read that right. I thought I could stop time by not surrendering to its unrelenting march forward. That’s not the sad part; The sad part is that I created a habit in my youth that I carried into adulthood and have fought tooth and nail to NOT change.
So, I already know a major reason why I’m not getting enough sleep: I have a lousy attitude about starting the next day … an attitude that frankly doesn’t even make any sense anymore. I’m not dreading a pop quiz in Algebra II or wondering if I’m going to have anyone to eat with in the cafeteria. My life has evolved, but my sleep habits haven’t.
I’m not saying you have the same habit that’s wreaked havoc on my sleep life. In all likelihood, your story is different than mine, but there’s undoubtedly a story there, because there always is.
Why do you suspect you’re not getting enough sleep?
What do you think are the reasons that you’re not falling asleep when you want to and getting the amount of sleep that would make you feel more rested and better able to enjoy each day?
What are you stressing over that’s not letting you shut your eyes and drift off into the land of dreams (or that’s waking you up in the middle of the night and keeping you from going back to sleep)?
What did you do, or not do, during the day that’s blocking your body from accepting the rest it needs (e.g., too little exercise, too much caffeine, too much sugar, etc.)?
And perhaps the most important question of all: are you finally ready to swap the sleep habits that aren’t working for ones that will work for you?
Better Nighttime Routine = Better Sleep. Better Sleep = Better Life!
Better sleep leads to a better life. It sounds like an overstatement, but think about the many reasons it’s true:
- Better sleep leaves you in a better mood
- Better sleep leads to better judgment
- Better sleep helps prevent illness
- Better sleep diminishes the chance of accidents
- Better sleep helps your brain function more fully, which helps you succeed in work and in life
The quality of your life is tied to the quality of your sleep life. It’s not an overstatement; it’s a fact.
In my research into “everything about sleep,” I not only uncovered the ghastly consequences of not getting enough sleep, I also discovered ways to improve the likelihood that you’ll get a good night’s rest.
A word of caution: None of what I’m about to share will help you if the reason you’re not getting enough sleep is that you’re dreading the next day. If you’re dragging your heels like I did trying to hold back the hands of time to prevent the next day from dawning, I’ve got some news for you: It doesn’t work. It will NEVER work.
Old Habits Die Hard
To improve your sleep quality and quantity, I’m going to recommend changing your habits.This sounds easy enough but in reality, it is not. It can span the gamut from being sorta uncomfortable to being agonizingly, horrifically difficult.
Habits don’t like to be changed; you adopted your current sleep habits to make your life easier, and so when you tell your mind you want to change, it will doubt you fully understand what you are doing and it will fight you.
You must be over-the-moon excited about the benefits of any new habit to have any hope for it to come to fruition. You must want it enough.
Then, you must focus on the process for adopting the new habit to have any chance for it to become your new “go to” habit. You must focus on the behaviors that lead to the result, not the end result itself.
Wanting more sleep is important, but will never be enough by itself. You must fall in love with the new processes required to get that sleep you’ve been longing for.
When you fall in love with the process, you set the stage for acquiring new habits that can transform your life.
16 Habits That Contribute to a Great Nighttime Routine
The number one way to get more sleep is to develop a nighttime routine that sets the stage for great sleep. The 60-90 minutes before you actually want to be asleep becomes a precious zone for you; protect it and treat it with reverence. It is in those minutes that you’ll make decisions and create new habits that will literally change your life.
Here are 16 habits to consider adopting that will help you fall sleep sooner, stay asleep longer, and give you better night’s sleep overall.
1 Put away the laptop, the phone and the tablet. The light they emit can interfere with your internal body clock. Plus, the things you’re doing on them (social media, playing games, checking emails, etc.) can be addictive and/or stress-provoking.
2 Skip the television; read a book. Television stimulates your brain so turn that baby off! Instead, pick up a book … the kind made of paper.
3 Take a warm (not hot!) bath or shower. The flow of warm water on your body is about as soothing as it gets. Make the process even more relaxing by adding a scent that enhances your relaxation. Lavender is proven to be soothing and sleep-inducing, so add a little lavender oil in the tub or on in a diffuser.
4 Calm your overactive mind with meditation. Meditation doesn’t have to be difficult and formal; it can be quite simple. Start with some deep breathing … three or four deep breaths to help you change your physiology from tight and stressed to loose and calm. Then allow your breath to come naturally and focus your mind on your just your breath. When thoughts come up and you notice them, don’t fight them, simply return your focus to your breath. Spending 10-20 minutes each night in meditation can help promote better sleep.
5 Tune into some relaxing instrumental music. Genre choice is important; don’t listen to anything that tends to stimulate you or bring up emotional connections that activate your mind.
6 Gentle exercise. Now is not the time to engage in anything strenuous, but a short, slow walk or some gentle stretching exercises can be helpful. By the way, if you didn’t get enough brisk exercise during the day, add that goal to your daytime routine. Your body craves exercise, and if it doesn’t get it, your body will fight you on sleep.
7 Write in your gratitude journal or your joy journal. Taking a few moments each night to reflect on what you’re grateful for or what brought you joy in the day is a pleasant way to say good-bye to the day.
8 Warm up your feet. I know this one sounds odd, but according to a study by Swiss scientists released in Nature, warming up your feet can promote the rapid onset of sleep. Hey, it’s a science-backed idea, so why not give it a try?
9 Start your bedtime routine at the same time each night. In reality, this isn’t always possible, but try to set a relatively stable schedule for sleep … and that means do the same thing on the weekends as you do on weekdays. Your body loves a schedule.
10 Write out a to-do list for tomorrow; Put a big heading on the top of the list that says “For Tomorrow, Not Tonight.” This one is tricky and it can work for you or against you depending on how you approach this. One of the reasons many of us don’t go to sleep quickly is that we’re worrying about the many things we need to do and we’re afraid we’ll forget something. Writing down a list of what you have to do helps put your mind at ease … you won’t forget it if it’s written down Here’s the thing, though, you need to write it down and then forget about it. If you can’t get your mind to “turn off” once the list is created, then skip this as part of your nighttime routine and do it earlier in the evening.
11 Spiritual practice. If you enjoy praying, or reading spiritual material, or moving your body with gentle yoga movements, then this is the perfect time to attend to your spiritual needs.
12 No alcohol or caffeine. If you imbibe in either, do it in moderation and well before you’ve entered your pre-sleep zone. A cup of warm decaf tea can help promote sleep, but don’t drink too much liquid before turning in or you’ll spend the night in the bathroom instead of in your bed.
13 Turn the thermostat to cool. Cooler temperatures keep your body cool, which causes your body to release the hormone melatonin. If the room temperature is too warm, you won’t receive the benefits of this sleep-inducing hormone.
14 Create a sleep-promoting sanctuary. Make your bedroom inviting and calming. A semi-firm bed is better than a hard one or one that’s too soft (which can lead to back woes). And your sheets and bedding should be soft and snuggly. Also, considering exploring adding some scents to your room that are known to promote sleep.
15 Keep the lighting dim. Bright lights keep you awake; low lights set the stage for sleep.
16 Intimate time with your partner. Whether it’s snuggling, sex, or simply reconnecting after a long day, wrapping yourself in a feeling of love, support, and belonging is a beautiful way to end your day.,
By the way, this long list is not meant to be a checklist. Embrace only those habits that resonate with you.
Some of these habits are easy to adopt, and others might require a lot of effort on your part.
Adopt one and then another and another … don’t try to radically change overnight.The odds that a new habit will stick is directly related to how the habit is formed. Habits formed in small increments tend to take root more fully than those that are made through radical shifts in behavior. So, take it slow and easy.
Final Notes on Getting Better Sleep and In Turn Living a Better, Happier Life
What I’ve offered here is not a panacea for everyone’s sleep-time woes.
You may be experiencing physiological or psychological issues that are interfering with your sleep. If so, go to a doctor, explain your situation, and see if he or she can help you. There are many, many medical reasons why you could be struggling with sleep; this post simply could never address everyone’s unique needs.
Finally, we’re really talking about three major issues you face:
ONE: Finally understanding the true importance of getting a good night’s sleep as well as acknowledging the big consequences that you face if you don’t.
TWO: Understanding the many different tactics that promote healthy sleep, and crafting a bedtime routine that you can fully, willingly embrace.
THREE: Understanding that you are about to embark on changing habits that you’ve probably clung to for years. To change a habit, you first must really, really, really want to change and then you must keep your focus on the process of changing (e.g., the process of adopting some of the 16 habits discussed). Wanting it will never be enough; you must be willing to put in the work to change.
Your new bedtime routine will feel uncomfortable at first but it time it will become second nature to you. Even better, you’ll finally start getting the rest your body needs on a regular basis. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? It does to me!
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